To Miren Jone Azurza. In memoriam

(Donostia-San Sebastian, 18-05-1929 – Donostia-San Sebastian, 15-05-2022)

You were petite but great nevertheless. You kept as low a profile as possible in the media, but you were a pioneer. Your modesty made you all the more remarkable. You never regarded yourself as a forerunner in anything or dreamt of being one, but you were: as a woman, a journalist, an advanced believer.

You had a remarkable desire to learn, and a capacity to match that desire. As a young girl of 11 or 12, you endured difficult family circumstances. Following Franco’s uprising and the Spanish Civil War of 1936, your father, a school teacher, was dismissed from his post on the charge of not being a supporter of the National Movement [the Franco regime], and had to flee to the Continental Basque Country, leaving your mother and her four children in Donostia-San Sebastian without a husband and father, and destitute. By then, you were a hard-working homemaker, but you did not resign yourself to it, nor did you yield to the rules of the time. Encouraged by your parents, who were also pioneers, and by your own inner drive, you completed high school and went on to do teacher training. And in 1965, in Madrid, you were awarded a degree in journalism, thus becoming the first Basque-speaking female journalist with a degree. And if that wasn’t enough, while you were earning your living as a journalist, you studied for a degree in History from start to finish between 1975 and 1980, driven by the desire for knowledge and action.

Indeed, your passion for study was as big as your passion for sharing what you had studied and everything that you were. This is borne out by the choices you made throughout your long life. They were bold, magnanimous choices, inspired by the fire within you, by a spirit of inquiry and by the desire to dedicate yourself entirely; they were choices driven by the demand for a new culture, society, world, and Church, the reflection of which was already evident by that time in our Basque society. You were always guided by your unerring instinct, quite naturally, towards pioneering, trail-blazing people and institutions. So, while you were still very young, in your quest for greater freedom, you joined the Institute of Secular Female Missionaries founded by Rufino Aldabalde, a priest from Aia. This institute clearly reflected the call being made by the new culture to the old religious Orders and Congregations and to the entire ecclesiastical institution, although these new movements, unfortunately, saw no continuation. This institute gave you the opportunity to study theology as well. And to collaborate closely and profitably in Salamanca with Lucien Deiss, the best creator of new liturgical hymns after the Second Vatican Council.

You didn’t stop making new choices. Back in Donostia-San Sebastian, you began to work with Ricardo Alberdi, a pioneering researcher and promoter of research into social issues, at his publishing house Ethos, publishing leaflets on the situation of women and social issues; it was then that you read Le deuxième sexe by Simone de Beauvoir, and understood it on a deep level. And you joined the magazine Zeruko Argia, soon to become its editor (1969-1975). From there you moved on to the recently created newspaper Deia. And sensing that from within the new Basque society the Breath of Life was asking you for something else, you left the Institute of Secular Female Missionaries to become fully involved in social and cultural work. That was when you met José Mari Ayestarán, a good man, a widower, and, in mutual giving and receiving of everything, you married and you spent 23 joyful years together, until a long illness, alleviated by your incomparable care, took him away from you, or brought him even closer to you. Blessed be you both! You continued in life and along the road with your short rapid footsteps. Your choices did not stop there. You made yourself available to collaborate in whatever you could in the Bishopric; Bishop José María Setién, who loved you so much and whom you loved so much, called you to manage his press office. There, too, you were on the front line, not because you had sought it, but because others sought you out and always found you willing.

I feel bound to make a special, highly favourable mention of the place you occupied, of the rich contribution you made to Basque cultural work in the 1960s and 1970s. Also in those years that marked a social and cultural turning point we saw you on the frontline. You were appointed editor of the magazine Zeruko Argia (“Light of Heaven”), owned by the Capuchin Franciscans, at the precise moment when the magazine was about to drop the name Zeruko (“of Heaven”) to become, to this day, merely Argia (“Light”), in times that were fertile and complex in equal measure and in which “Heaven above” and the “God on high”, though certainly not the Mystery that created Light, were disappearing for all time. There you were, Miren Jone, in the not always serene limelight of discussion and transformation. And, under your lucid, efficient direction, you brought together so many people who have become established names in Basque literature: Patxi Altuna, Amatiño, Gurutz Antsola, Bernardo Atxaga, Joseba Arregi, Rikardo Arregi, Mikel Atxaga, Joxe Azurmendi, Ramuntxo Camblong, Nemesio Etxaniz, Xabier Gereño, Xabier Kintana, Joan Mari Lekuona, Anjel Lertxundi, Xabier Lete, Jorge Oteiza, Juan San Martin, Aita Onaindia, Eusebio Osa, Ramon Saizarbitoria, Joseba Sarrionandia, Joxe Mari Satrustegi, Martin Ugalde, Mikel Ugalde, Joxemi Zumalabe. The list amazes me. And you led them all, without ever having put yourself above anyone else.

And finally, on top of everything, the source and deep breath of all that you were, said and did: GOD. Beyond every name and image, beyond every belief, beyond every religion and ecclesiastical institution. You, too, were an atheist with respect to the “God” that all atheists deny. You had long since abandoned the law-giving, reward-giving, severely punishing “God”. But that is not the only thing. In the last ten years, as the indefatigable traveller that you were, you had also forsaken the “Lord on high”, the Supreme Entity, superior to all entities in the universe. But deeper than ever you recognised the pure, full, empty BEING of all that is, the Vital Breath, WHAT-IS, Possibility of being. In silence and joy you immersed yourself in the creative Mystery of what is, with the help of books by Willigis Jäeger, Xabier Melloni or Enrique Martínez-Lozano. You lived a deep, open, free, spirituality of the great breath.

The flame of the daily practice of silence tempered you morning and evening, rooted you in unconditional confidence, and in these turbulent times anchored you firmly in the hope of a new world, a new society, a new Christianity, a new Church.

My deepest thanks, Miren Jone!

Aizarna (Basque Country). 18  May, 2022, the day on which Miren Jone would have been 93

(Translated by Sarah J. Turtle)